From Chicago to Newtown and Every Town, Valuing All Lives

From Chicago to Newtown and Every Town, Valuing All Lives


From tragedy comes togetherness. After Columbine, the nation came together. After 9/11, the nation came together. And on the heels of nearly 30 deaths in Connecticut, our nation mourns, but it can come together.

Appropriately, solutions are shopped around, and solutions will vary because the problem is perceived differently. For some it is gun control. For others, it’s about mental health advocacy and funding. Some believe that prayer prevents massacres. Some also believe in a retaliatory God who ends children’s lives because organized religion isn’t always welcome in schools.

As details unfold about the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary and in Newtown, Connecticut, the nation grieves and tries to move forward.

However, some stories barely and rarely bubble up. If the question is one of rarity, we must ask why tragedies  in some places are normalized in others.

More than 400 murders occurred in Chicago this year. According to police department figures, there were more than 300 homicides in Philadelphia this year.

Undoubtedly, innocent children and adults were killed in both cities and various others around the nation. Yet, nuanced post-tragedy responses send messages about who deserves tears and advocacy and who deserves tough talk and apathy.

Are there conflicting notions about who’s human enough for society to care? Are compassion, color and class correlated? Does the nature of the neighborhood alter the media’s grief coverage? Are upper echelon losses more palpable? Is societal privilege a shield for some killers? Do people run so from inner cities that masses are desensitized to tragedies there?

Undoubtedly, it is tragic when people die. It is troubling that a young man valued himself and the lives of others so little that he went on a killing spree in which many children were victims. The fact that he chose a presumed safe haven and center of learning for his target is unsettling. These truths are uncomfortable and they should be. Even so, the facts  shouldn’t be cause to sequester sensitivity.

If we lose our collective capacity to be sickened and moved to action anytime heinous crimes happen anywhere, we lose a bit of our humanity. And in some of the coverage, responses, tweets and posts about the Sandy Hook tragedy, a subliminal hierarchy prevailed. America is better than that.

Grief responses won’t be tidy. There is no pre-established grief script that we can cue and play out in light of tragedy, but every life matters. Lives matter on their own and they matters to others.

Sandy Hook’s coverage should challenge all of us to brainstorm ways to mitigate and prevent societal violence. We should look to our leaders, but first look to ourselves about the future of this nation. When President Barack Obama spoke in response to the Sandy Hook shooting he sent unity messages.

“I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight,” the president said.

“In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another.”

Some celebrities took to the web about America’s culture of violence and how concern should be distributed.

“When a seven-year-old is shot and killed in Newtown, Conn. and a seven-year-old is shot and killed in Chicago, the disease of violence that has plagued the United States of America must be cured,” Russell Simmons said in the Huffington Post.

Without asking tough questions, taking meaningful, multi-tiered action and looking at our collective reflection, tragedies will continue.

The president alluded to a need for togetherness in his response.

“Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?”